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Monday, April 22, 2024

Money, money everywhere, but not a buck to spend.

That's what we think about when the Florida Lottery says it can't give any more money to education - which is exactly what it was designed to do.

Only 31 percent of the state lottery's revenue goes toward education. About 60 percent pays for prizes, and the rest covers administrative costs.

Even though prizes seem to be getting bigger and bigger, ticket sales are down.

While the lottery tries to increase its revenue, it's also faced with the challenge of deciding how much gambling is OK.

But couldn't the lotto take some away from the prizes to fund more education? Of course, this only works as long as the state doesn't reduce its education funding.

California's lotto gives 35 percent of its profits to education and brings in almost the same amount of revenue as Florida's, so we know it's possible.

One long-standing argument is to raise the standards of the Bright Futures scholarships. The SAT and ACT scores to qualify for the scholarships are below the national average, and only the Florida Academic scholarship, which covers 100 percent of tuition, requires any community service hours.

A little less than 25 percent of the ,1.56 billion that the lotto gave to Florida's education for the 2007-2008 fiscal year paid for Bright Futures scholarships.

If Bright Futures' standards were raised, Florida wouldn't even have to raise tuition to benefit.

Universities would receive the same amount of tuition either way, but the lotto could take the money it would have used to pay for Bright Futures and give it directly to the universities. It wouldn't cost the lottery system an extra dime to do that, but the universities would receive more money.

And we must point out that your Bright Futures scholarship, if you are one of the 90 percent of UF students receiving one, was most likely paid for by some of Florida's poorest and most uneducated residents, who are most likely to buy lottery tickets - and the Florida Legislature knows it.

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How does it feel to know most students' tuition, which most middle-class families can afford to pay, was funded by those worst off?

UF received ,22 million less this year from the lotto than it did last year, even though statewide, the lotto gave ,118 million more to education, from K-12 through the university level. So maybe it's time for UF's lobbying powers to shift the fight from tuition hikes to increasing lotto revenue - we're confident it's a battle that could be won.

Florida's educational systems are always in need of more money, and it's not just the Legislature's job to provide it. If Florida is going to have a lottery system, it needs to be able to milk it for all it's worth.

It's hard to understand why some old person deserves a multi-million dollar prize while UF and other state universities have theirs taken from them.

We know it's not the lotto's job to fund Florida's education systems. We just think schools should get a bigger piece of the prize.

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